MythTV, Kodi, Plex, OSMC, and DVBLink tested

Role Play

MythTV works with a back-end server and a front-end client. Whereas the back end coordinates the internal work processes in the background, the front end serves as a user interface. A PC can take on multiple roles.

The most convenient way to configure the media center is still via MythTV's own control center. After installation, you just need to call the System | MythBuntu Control Centre or, depending on the desktop, System Tools | MythBuntu Control Centre. (Henceforth I will use System) The System Roles entry is at the bottom right; it lets you define the role of the current system. If you want the home theater PC to work as the sole media center, you need to activate the Primary Backend and Desktop Frontend roles (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Define various functional roles for you media center PC in the MythTV Control Centre.

Now you should set up the back end in line with the role definition, which hides behind System | Administration | MythTV Backend Setup on the desktop. Next, you should carefully configure the Capture cards, Video sources, Input connections, Channel Editor, and Storage Directories (Figure 2). Although MythTV usually correctly recognizes and addresses TV tuners connected to or in the system, you need to set the video sources themselves and link them to your tuner.

Figure 2: MythTV is configured in the Control Centre.

If you have multiple cards attached to your system, you can separate the sources, thanks to this construct. The automated scan for tuners makes work easier and defines paths for the recording function. After completing the rather painstaking configuration, you can start the back end and create the database.

To start the front end, from the desktop click Applications | Multimedia | MythTV Frontend. The media center's complete multimedia performance spectrum is now available on the interface (Figure 3). MythTV provides options to listen to radio stations; watch videos on CD, DVD, or the hard drive; play audio CDs; and look at pictures. The options in the main window in turn branch out into context-sensitive submenus so that no menu hierarchy is overloaded.

Figure 3: Multimedia content is just a few clicks away.

The media center supports several remote controls. They use the Linux infrared remote control (LIRC) routines [11] that support several IR controls without any additional configuration.

Kodi

Kodi is probably the best-known media center project in the Linux universe, although it may be more familiar under its old name, XBMC. Kodi, like MythTV, is included in many software repositories of large Linux derivatives and as Kodibuntu [12] in the form of a unique 64-bit-only distribution based on Ubuntu 14.04.

The Kodi project maintains dedicated repositories, so it is worth installing the latest version of the software from these repositories. Alternatively, you can update an older Kodibuntu installation to the latest version of the media center [13].

To install Kodi in Ubuntu, you need to add and update the corresponding repository, install the media center, and trace all necessary dependencies:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:team-xbmc/ppa
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install kodi
sudo apt-get install kodi-pvr-*

The final command line installs the add-on clients needed to make use of TV recordings, program playback, and the electronic program guide (EPG).

A corresponding server is used as a back end, for which Kodi provides numerous server alternatives. You can configure the server immediately during installation or use a remote control (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Installing a remote control in Kodi is easy.

Commissioning

Now you should be able to access the software from the desktop menu Sound & Video | Kodi media center menu. Several media groups are preset in the media center. Like MythTV, Kodi also plays all common media types. After opening it for the first time, you can select the language in the settings menu. If a TV card is attached to the computer and the personal video recorder (PVR) back ends and front ends are installed, you can configure and activate the PVR client from the System | Add-ons menu to put the TV card into operation (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Manually activating the PVR front end in Kodi.

This process requires a bit of manual work because not all front ends and back ends play well together. Additionally, I could not install all PVR clients during the test: Under Ubuntu 16.04 "Xenial Xerus," the Tvheadend client could not be installed on the disk because of missing dependencies. However, once I noticed it malfunctioning after activating a PVR client, I terminated Kodi and then restarted it.

The PVR client tries to import a list of all tuners when starting the software, and it displays a message if there are any problems, in which case, you can choose a different client-server combination.

If the configuration is successful, the TV and, if the TV card supports it, Radio entries appear in the main menu. Both provide all possible forms of use with the Channels, Guide, Recordings, Timers, and Search submenus. Additionally, you can set up Internet protocol television (IPTV), call up station media libraries, and play back their content (Figure 6).

Figure 6: A TV program shown in full-screen mode.

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